29 بهمن 1392

Veteran journalist Reza Marzban’s memoirs: A closer look

18 February 2014

Translated by:Mehrdad Safa

Khabarnegaran.info-Saba Etemaad:Veteran journalist Reza Marzban is no longer with us. He died at the age of 85 in Paris. For years, Marzban was a university professor of news writing and journalism, as well as editor-in-chief of Peygham-e Emrouz daily. He was also a unionist at the Writers & Journalists Syndicate.

An internet search for him will yield few results. But who really was Reza Marzban – other than a past master at journalism?

Despite being banned from writing during Shah’s reign, and later being called as CIA and Shah’s servant after the Revolution, he still managed to write for his newspaper from his hideaway. In 1982, after he heard about his death sentence, he was forced to live in exile.

Marzban’s memoirs are not just an account of his life, but a sketch of the history of Iranian journalism, especially during the early years of Iranian Revolution.

In the first volume of Goriz-e Nagozir [Involuntary Escape], Marzban recounts how he ran away from the Islamic Republic, remembering it as “30 years of horrible nightmare.”

Here we take a look at the longest strike by Iranian press workers in history as told by Marzban.

“On 5 November 1978, in the same time the Shah’s message to the “dear nation” was being broadcast on radio, a few generals came around in the editorial staff halls of Kayhan and Ettelaat to monitor the newspapers content. The news spread from newspaper to newspaper by phone. The Shah was not finished yet on radio that the Writers & Journalists Syndicate called a strike in protest to violation of the Charter on Press Freedom. The strike, lasted for 62 days, was the longest one in the history of Iranian press industry.

During the early days of Revolution, the owner and managing director of Peygham-e Emrouz transferred the license of his newspaper to Marzban for ten years.

The new volume of Peygham-e Emrouz started to publish daily in the morning from 27 February 1979.

In an interview with Ayandegan daily, the newspaper’s policy was described as “a follower of socialist ideals; a defender of labor rights, freedom of association and parties, freedom of expression and thought; an advocate of regional and global peace, national independence, friendship with neighbors, and indiscriminating international relations; and fighting against imperialism.

During those days, well-known preacher Falsafi was a mediator between clerics and the press. He constantly asked us to clear up our stance. After that interview with Ayandegan was published, Gouran says to Falsafi: “Well… Peygham-Emrouz has cleared up his stance.” Falasfi replied, “Now we are also clear with up”.

The next day, Gouran warned us against clerics; and he was writing. We did not own a print shop. Every few days we had to go to a new print shop. The moment that we saw a bearded typesetter or operator, we went after a new print shop. They chased after us step by step. It was a time when every day made more news than a year.

In Marzban’s words, Savak agents were replaced by gangs of hundreds. They attacked the offices of newspapers and threatened them to deny the news they had published. Instead, they were wanted to publish a violent, “clerical-like” text with all grammatical and spelling mistakes it had.

On 19 August 1979, Khalkhali read Khomeini’s decree in Qom, and a few hours later it was broadcast on radio. Peygham-e Emrouz was ordered to close down and Reza Marzban was sentenced to death. When I heard the news, I packed up my suitcase and phoned my good lawyer friend Akbar Lajvardi. “I am ready to be accompanied by you to the Court of Revolution,” I told him. He said, “Well.. I’ve gotta consult with Dr. Karim Lahiji first.” Lahiji told him: “Do not take him to the court at all. He will be slaughtered.” From that day, my hidden life started and lasted until 30 April 1982.

Javad Talei, who identified himself as an old friend and colleague of Reza Marzban, wrote in his facebook page, “Marzban was the live, mobile archive of Iranian Journalism. He could flee to Paris and continue his fighting by establishing the Association of Defending Press Freedom and helping to run many media in exile. Many accounts in the history of Iranian press – from September 1941 to January 2014 – will remain untold.”

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